Packers Camp Insider: Rookie corner Josh Jackson takes big step forward
» Josh Jackson had the kind of game that suggests he might help the Packers as a rookie. The second-round pick played a lot of snaps with the No. 2 defense, both as an outside cornerback and in the slot in the nickel. He had one of the plays of the game when he jumped a throw by first-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs on an out route early in the third quarter and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. Fellow rookie Jaire Alexander, the Packers’ first-round pick, was a starter Thursday as the slot cornerback in the nickel, and when the regular season begins that figures to be his role, with Kevin King and Tramon Williams probably as the outside cornerbacks. But Jackson has played better recently than he did early in camp as he adjusts to the various coverages the Packers use — he played mostly as an off cover man at Iowa but has had to do his share of bump-and-run in coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense. Though veteran Davon House is likely ahead of him for the No. 4 cornerback, Jackson could put himself in the running for that job, which would get him a lot of playing time if anyone ahead of him gets hurt. His best skill at Iowa was playing the ball in the air — he had eight interceptions last season — and on his interception of Dobbs showed good anticipation when the quarterback stared down receiver Damoun Patterson on the out route. Jackson later showed a skill he didn’t demonstrate in college when he returned a punt 22 yards. At Iowa, he returned only five punts in his career for an average of 7.2 yards.
BOX SCORE: Packers 51, Steelers 34
» Receivers J’Mon Moore and Jake Kumerow are on different trajectories in camp. For the second straight game, Moore had a bad drop on a deep throw from Tim Boyle that could have gone for a long touchdown. Though Moore was the highest pick of the three receivers the Packers drafted this year — he was a fourth-rounder, Marquez Valdes-Scantling was a fifth-rounder and Equanimious St. Brown a sixth-rounder — he’s had the least impressive camp of the group. At this point, because of the drop issues, it’s by no means a given he’ll make the 53-man roster. The last time a healthy fourth-round pick didn’t make the Packers’ opening-game roster was Cory Rodgers in 2006. Kumerow, on the other hand, had his second big-play touchdown catch of the preseason, this time turning an out route from DeShone Kizer in the third quarter into an 82-yard touchdown that included juking safety Nat Berhe downfield. Kumerow has spent most of the last three seasons on NFL practice squads but as a trusted target for the quarterbacks in practice plus the two big plays in the preseason, he has put himself in the running for a spot on the 53-man roster. “From the first time he got here, it's never been too big for him,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “and he continues to make plays, and that's how you make the squad. You ball out on game day, and you do things on special teams when you're a fringe guy, and you give yourself an opportunity, not just for this squad, but for any team watching (him) on film.”
DeShone Kizer (142.0 rating) might have inched ahead of Brett Hundley (93.3) in their contest for the No. 2 quarterback job. Kizer has the livelier throwing arm of the two, as he showed on the touchdown to Kumerow on the out route and on a bullet to tight end Robert Tonyan over the middle for a 14-yard gain. Kizer also hit Tonyan on a fade route for a one-yard touchdown and put up two touchdown drives in his four series. Rodgers played only the opening series, and then Hundley replaced him. Hundley put up points on all three of his series — one touchdown and two field goals.
Bits and pieces
» Reggie Gilbert has clearly emerged as the Packers’ No. 3 outside linebacker. Playing against the Steelers’ backups, he had a big game with 2½ sacks, including a strip sack of rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph that the Steelers recovered. “I just love (Gilbert’s) path, his story, just the way he’s grown in this program,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s a fine young football player, very versatile, too.”
» Rookie JK Scott hasn’t punted nearly as well in the two preseason games as he has in live drills in practice, where he has hit good hang times and distances with consistency. Against the Steelers he averaged 40.6 yards on five punts, including shanking a 29-yarder out of bounds and hitting a pooch-type punt from the Steelers’ 49 into the end zone on the fly for a touchback and net of only 29 yards.
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» Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs had some issues at backup left tackle again Thursday. Murphy gave up a sack when starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree beat him cleanly off the edge, and Spriggs had a hands-to-face penalty pass blocking in the second half.
» The players who didn’t suit up for the game were WR Trevor Davis (hamstring), CB King (shoulder), RB Devante Mays (hamstring), RB Aaron Jones (hamstring), S Jermaine Whitehead (back), OLB Nick Perry (PUP), G Lane Taylor (thigh), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), DL Mike Daniels (thigh).
» G Justin McCray left the game with a calf injury and didn’t return. Kumerow left the game with a right shoulder stringer and didn’t return.
Quote of the day
“I think the trajectory of the football team is we’re on a good path. But by no means are we, we have a lot of work to do. I feel good about the amount of work we’ve accomplished this week, and when we get in there tomorrow and get things cleaned up, it’s like anything in this business, it’s never as good as you think it is and it’s usually not as bad as you think it is.” – McCarthy, on the Packers’ 51-34 win over the Steelers.
The Packers don’t practice again until 12:15 p.m. Monday, open to the public.